Spooky season lifts spirits amid a pandemic

As Halloween creeps closer on calendars, the idea of what the Celtic holiday will look like midpandemic continues to be a question for NAU students and Flagstaff residents. Local officials have yet to release a statement regarding how the upcoming holiday will be impacted by COVID-19 regulations and if events will be canceled. 

According to USA Today, many community leaders across the nation have released plans for Halloween celebrations, whether that be releasing guidelines or canceling seasonal events altogether.

Additionally, Dallas county health officials recommend parents not take their children trick-or-treating this year due to the difficulty of following social distancing guidelines, according to Dallas radio station WFAA ABC Channel 8. On the other hand, Tarrant County health officials in Texas released a list of safety precautions for those who choose to trick-or-treat. Some of such guidelines include carrying hand sanitizer and using it regularly, as well as wiping down all candy once the night ends. 

However, uncertainty about COVID-19 has not stopped the Flagstaff community from celebrating the fall season and kicking off Halloween a bit early. Junior Estacia Aguilera said she began celebrating the Halloween season in early September with her roommates. They have embraced the spooky season by decorating their apartment and binging Halloween movies, she said. 

“We love spooky season, and one month isn’t enough,” Aguilera said. “So, it was better to start earlier than later.” 

With COVID-19 precautions limiting social gatherings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidelines for anyone who chooses to celebrate traditionally social holidays, such as Halloween, Day of the Dead and Christmas. As for Halloween, the CDC detailed alternative activities that promote social distancing, yet still keep the festivities alive. Such activities include hosting a virtual costume contest, carving pumpkins, having a spooky movie night and decorating for the occasion. 

Aguilera said she and her roommates saw decorating their apartment as a great way to bond with one another, and celebrate the upcoming holidays and bring some excitement to pandemic living. 

While Aguilera said she is mainly looking forward to Halloween, many are focusing on celebrating autumn’s arrival and activities associated with it, such as dressing for sweater weather, ordering pumpkin spice lattes, baking pies and visiting pumpkin patches. Manager Jessie Bangle at Viola’s Flower Garden said she and her staff are excited for the fall season and to share the hard work they have put into creating their yearly pumpkin patch for the Flagstaff community. 

Bangle explained that every year since 2001, Viola’s Flower Garden has been transformed into a pumpkin patch for the community to enjoy. However, according to the nursery’s website, the pumpkin patch is closing early on Oct. 16 this year due to pandemic restrictions. 

Earlier this year, Viola’s Flower Garden staff was trained on how to manage seasonal crowds amid the pandemic, Bangle explained. While celebrating autumn and Halloween look different this year, she said she is confident in the staff’s ability to manage COVID-19 precautions. 

“We have been open as a nursery since May, and we have been requiring masks the whole time,” Bangle said. “So, I think the spiel of how to talk about needing to wear a mask, we have mastered.” 

Bangle explained that every guest is required to wear a mask while on their property and maintain a six-foot distance. This year, Viola’s Flower Garden also chose to eliminate parts of their traditional activities in order to accommodate COVID-19 precautions. Instead, she said the staff instilled new activities, such as a scavenger hunt and a maze, for customers to enjoy while maintaining their distance from others. 

The staff will continue to mitigate crowd control as the nursery gets busier throughout October, Bangle explained. She also explained they are willing to enforce even more precautions if necessary like limiting the amount of people in the pumpkin patch.

Though so far, Bangle said guests have been respectful of the business’ requirements, and are following the rules with such ease. 

“We were shocked, we were prepared for the worst,” Bangle said. “We have been extremely lucky. I think we did a good job of making our requirements known.”  

While visiting a pumpkin patch continues to be a popular way to celebrate the start of fall in Flagstaff, Aguilera said she and her friends have found other ways to celebrate autumn while maintaining their distance. 

Aguilera said she has joined in on the popular TikTok ghost photoshoot trend. According to HITC, a pop culture and sports news website, the ghost photoshoot trend consists of people dressing up as sheet ghosts and taking photos in a location that shows off the changing colors that accompany the fall season. The trend began in early September and has gained over 14.8 million views on the social media platform. 

Aguilera and her friends went to Aspen Corner, she said, a popular Flagstaff spot filled with aspen trees that turn yellow during autumn. Aguilera and her friends decided to join in on the trend and have a picnic to celebrate the fall season, and to find some enjoyment during the academic year. 

“I feel it is good to put some life into college, because it’s the little things that make it feel like home,” Aguilera said. “It brings everyone together and shows that college isn’t just about the classes.” 

 Whether it is going to Viola’s Pumpkin Patch, decorating their space or even participating in a spooky TikTok trend, Flagstaff locals can be sure that their spooky season and fall fun is here to enjoy, even while the pandemic persists.